“Better to have pitched and lost than never have pitched at all” might sound a little trite on the ear to your typical Sales Director, but for all the frustrations that losing a pitch can generate there is a pretty valuable consolation prize that surprisingly few companies grasp.
Fact is that if you have managed to progress a prospect all the way down your sales funnel from initial Awareness to the point of Evaluation – only to fail at the Purchase step – then your firm is actually doing a lot of things right.
Your communications are reaching at least some of the right people at the right time, in the right media.
And your proposition clearly has relevance to a section of the market, otherwise your prospect wouldn’t have got as far as enquiring and then shortlisting you.
What’s almost certainly going wrong in these cases – the thing that is holding you back – is that there’s a small but correctable mismatch between what the market really wants, and what you are currently offering.
And, yes, sometimes that mismatch might be vanishingly small.
After all – if there was an insurmountable gap between your offer and what the market wants, then you wouldn’t have made that shortlist in the first place.
All you need to do is find out what that mismatch is, and then you can correct it.
I have a hypothesis for Sales Directors faced with rising targets in a tightening market with increasingly constrained resources:
“It is cheaper, easier and quicker to raise sales though doubling conversions at the point of purchase than it is to double the volume of leads entering the top of the existing funnel.”
The obvious question is “How?”
The simple answer is “Ask the ones that got away”.
By doing some fairly straightforward, speedy research you can understand:
- What business challenge prompted a recent unconverted prospect to look for the solution you offer?
- How they went about looking for their solution?
- Who else’s solution they considered?
- What their key criteria were in their ideal solution?
- Who did they eventually choose to provide it?
- Why didn’t they choose your solution, given they’d actively considered it?
- What would your firm needed to have done or offered to be able to come top in that instance?
The beauty of this approach is that you don’t need to spend time and money looking for people to research: you already know who they are. You have their contact details, and if the failed conversion is recent they will probably have a lot to reveal about both where your proposition fell short and the relative merits of the propositions of your leading competitors.
Unfortunately the pitfall many otherwise switched-on companies fall into when trying to garner these insights is to make the Sales Manager who failed to convert the opportunity responsible for gathering the feedback.
This creates some significant challenges that ultimately defeat the objective:
- The unconverted prospect is likely to view the Sales Manager’s request for a post-sale discussion as an attempt to resurrect the sale – and so not want to engage when the decision to place the business elsewhere has already been taken.
- If the client’s feedback is that the Sales Manager themselves was the issue the sale fell through, this honest feedback isn’t going to be fed back to the Sales Director.
- And in the same way that very few Market Researchers make top Sales Managers, very few Sales Managers make good, impartial Market Researchers.
- Indeed, diverting a dispirited Sales Manager’s time into raking over the coals of a recent failure is surely less likely to be productive than setting them on a fresh sales quest and separately tasking a researcher with getting the insights you need to help the Sales Manager better at converting next time.
Independently garnered feedback can quickly tell you with disarming honesty where you are failing to convert, why, and where you need to finesse your proposition in order to win more business through improved sales conversion.
What this means for your business is that instead of spending more money trying to widen your sales funnel at the top and waiting for the leads to percolate downwards with the speed of molasses, you can grow sales through loosening the choke point in the funnel – at the point of sale itself.
This is especially vital in a stagnant market where the Sales Director’s plea to the CMO of “Give Me More Leads!” is simply met with a frustrated look from a CMO similarly challenged with trying to do more with less.
Remember, the “nearly-boughts” came close to buying because there was plenty about your marketing approach that they did like.
You made the podium, but didn’t get the prize.
In business pitches, there’s usually nothing given for coming second.
But independent research can speedily uncover where you need to make those fractional gains that can convert those sorry Silvers into target-beating Golds.
And given you got the prospect so far down the funnel last time, it may well only be fractional changes that you need to make in order to close successfully next time.
If you are looking for an independent, specialist B2B market researcher who can help you do this – one whose insights are couched in the context of 25 years’ experience in B2B marketing both client and agency side – then please do get in touch.
Although based in the UK I work with clients globally.
I love what I do. I find it endlessly fascinating.
Feel free to pick my brains. Contact details below:
Picture credit: rose_mcavoy | Pixabay